Style/ Beauty

The Gatorade Ad Backlash For Featuring A Plus-Size Yoga Teacher Proves Fatphobia Is Rife

I don’t even see women – let alone anybody with an ounce of fat on their body – on the walls in the gym that I (now) go to. Really, it’s all just proof that fatphobia, especially in the exercise space, is very much alive and well.

It’s ironic, really, isn’t it? The double standards that are so obviously at play here – especially when Jessamyn is, without a doubt, a thousand times fitter and more able than the majority of those choosing to negatively comment on her body. 

“Would you rather they showed a fat person sitting on a couch and eating junk food? I think it’s a positive thing to show overweight people exercising and wanting to get in shape,” said one Twitter user, who naively assumed Jessamyn was only just at the start of her fitness journey, simply because her body doesn’t look like they’d expect it to. Thankfully there was a clapback: “It took me years of consistent practice to be able to do this pose freestanding. She IS in shape.”

That exchange sums everything up for me – as far as society is concerned, it doesn’t matter if a fat person exercises every single day of the week for their entire life, because if you don’t have a thin body, there’s no way you can be fit, let alone healthy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, and the sooner we all start to realise and understand that thinness doesn’t equate to health, the better, never mind the fact that being healthy isn’t a moral obligation.

As a plus-sized person myself, it’s women like Jessamyn who’ve encouraged me to start working out, to conquer my fear of the gym, and to (slowly) learn to enjoy exercise without the added pressure of feeling like I have to do it to lose weight. But then I read these comments and the dread that’s constantly in the back of my mind starts to creep to the forefront. 

The fear of being stared at, of people wondering what I’m doing in their gym, of being laughed at, the embarrassment of sweating in public – because that surely must show how unfit I am – but let’s not forget that everybody sweats. You see the thing is, the world loves to chastise and bully fat people.

The comments about Jessamyn prove that, and ignorant men like Piers Morgan love to share their hatred of obese people, plus it’s assumed that we must be unhealthy because of the size of our bodies. That’s something no other body type will experience, and we all know that weight isn’t the only marker of health yet it’s apparently still OK to shame us without a second thought, to forget we’re real humans with real feelings, to pretend to act concerned about us. Yet when we do exercise, people continue to berate and belittle and laugh at us. We can’t ever win.

And that’s why, for years, I avoided exercise. In my mind, I hated the idea of it and it was easier to be the fat person society thought I was. But over the last few years, I’ve overcome my fears and have been incredibly lucky – and privileged – to seek out and work with two incredible female PTs, both with a holistic approach to exercise. First, Hannah Lewin, who gave me a confidence I never dreamt I’d be able to have, and my current trainer, Molly Breeden, who’s further building my strength and abilities, and is improving my mindset with every session.

I’ll be honest though, I know trainers like Hannah and Molly are in the minority, and the likes of social media gym bros (you know who I’m talking about) make exercising feel harder and scarier and more intimidating than it should be. There’s also the constant second guessing of everyone around you once you’re actually through the door, especially if the comments about Jessamyn are anything to go by. But if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you just have to cut through the bullshit.

The sheer hypocrisy of gym culture proves just how redundant the health argument is. Remember that there are supportive people out there. Molly and Hannah are proof of that, it just might take a little longer to find them.

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